Art Under Second Avenue

Found, 7. January 2017
By: John Hill

All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

The first section of the long-awaited (it was first proposed in 1919!) Second Avenue Subway opened to the public on Manhattan's Upper East Side on the first day of 2017. More than the architecture, a big highlight of the new stations is the artwork that lines their walls. World-Architects visited one week after opening to check out the new below-grade "museum."


Sarah Sze at 96th Street

New York-based artist Sarah Sze's contribution is titled "Blueprint for a Landscape." Part of it covers a wall next to the escalators and stairs that connect the subway to the street.

The white-on-blue illustrations of scaffolding and other objects recall the blueprints that architects used to employ.

Straphangers – as the city calls subway riders – walk under a swirling portion of "Blueprint for a Landscape" to access the subway.

Sze's whole installation is made up of more than 4,300 porcelain wall tiles covering approximately 14,000 square feet.

The blue-and-white wall tiles pick up beyond the turnstiles and line the sides of the mezzanine level, one level above the train platform.


Chuck Close at 86th Street

Chuck Close's contribution at 86th Street is made up of 12 "Subway Portraits" based on his large-scale paintings and prints. Some are located at the entrances and others (barely visible here) are located along the mezzanine.

One of the dozen portraits of NYC cultural figures is of artist Kara Walker.

Ten of the twelve portraits are made from mosaics, which reveal themselves as one moves closer to them.

What look like single points of color from a distance are actually combinations of colors in donut-like patterns made with small pieces of stone.


Vik Muniz at 72nd Street

Brazilian artist Viz Muniz's "Perfect Strangers" is a series of 36 life-size portraits based on staged photographs of friends and acquaintances.

The characters appear to be waiting for trains, such that the series depicts the day-to-day lives of a variety of New Yorkers.

The artist himself makes an appearance as a businessman with papers flying from his briefcase.


New York CityartVik-MunizChuck-CloseSarah-SzeSubway